We all remember the great run the Miami Heat had in the bubble. Nobody expected them to beat the Bucks in the second round, let alone make it all the way to the NBA finals. What people don’t remember though, is the trade that Pat Riley made that season. Way before the bubble, before the season was suspended for COVID, before all of the chaos. The Heat traded Justise Winslow, James Johnson and Dion Waiters in exchange for Jae Crowder, Andre Igouldala and Solomon Hill. All of which were instrumental pieces to the puzzle during Miami’s magnificent run. The Heat need to make a very similar trade very soon.
In the offseason, Miami’s first and biggest mistake was letting Jae Crowder walk. The Heat are missing Crowder’s presence big time this season. He was money from downtown throughout the bubble, but where he really made his impact was on the defensive side of the ball. Crowder did a great job of helping the Heat shut down athletic wing players like Giannis Antetoukoumpo and Jayson Tatum in the playoffs. Crowder signed a three year, $30 million contract with the Phoenix Suns after his great stint with the Heat. That’s $10 million per year, which in today’s NBA is actually a very reasonable price for a guy like Crowder. To compare, Heat’s big man Kelly Olynyk gets paid $12.5 million per year. In the end it ultimately came down to length of contract though, as they couldn’t agree on a number of years. The Heat only wanted Crowder for a one or two year deal, while Crowder wanted a more of a long term deal. In Miami’s defense, at the time they were only doing this in hopes of saving up cap room to land Milwaukee superstar Giannis Antetoukoumpo the following offseason. This was all for naught though, as the Greek Freak then signed a supermax extension with the Bucks. But still, you’re telling me that Pat Riley couldn’t have made it work and get a guy like Crowder to stick around?
The next mistake Miami made was letting Derrick Jones Jr. walk. He also played a huge role for the Heat last season. His size and skill set enabled him to be a very solid two way player for Miami. His explosiveness and jumping ability made for a very sneaky offensive weapon that could erupt at any time. DJJ's length and athleticism also allowed for him to be solid on the wing defensively. He ended up leaving the Heat for pretty much the same reasons as Crowder. Jones received a two-year, $18 million contract from the Portland Trail Blazers. Again, the Heat did this in an attempt to land Giannis, but that doesn’t mean leave your team with no wing players! The only true wings this left the Heat with were Jimmy Butler and Andre Igouldala. They did go out and sign Maurice Harkless but, that’s not enough in this league. Especially given Igoudala’s age.
The Heat have looked completely dysfunctional this entire season. They are currently 11-17 and 11th in the Eastern Conference. This could be due to a number of factors: shortest offseason in league history, COVID hitting half the team early in the season, Meyers Leonard getting injured for the rest of the season (Just to name a few), but absolutely the biggest problem has been the lack of wings and bigs. The Heat have too many guards in their rotation. Especially now with Meyers Leonard out. The Maurice Harkless experiment clearly isn’t working, and G-League call up Max Strus isn’t the answer either. The kid is a great shooter but that still doesn’t help the defensive side of the basketball. The Heat desperately need help this season on defense. Miami has lost to the Clippers without Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Twice. They can’t contain Ivica Zubac right now. Miami has guys like Kendrick Nunn trying to defend guys like Zubac. Nothing against Nunn but he is 6’2, and Zubac is 7’0. That is not going to work. It wasn’t just against the Clippers either. This kind of problem has been killing the Heat all season.
However, the main pieces do work. The Heat have proved that they can get to a championship with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo leading the way. Other than Jimmy and Bam, the only other player they might have a really tough time trading is Tyler Herro given how young and talented he is. However, at this point everyone else is fair game for trade bait. The Heat just need to find the right supporting cast.
Miami Heat GM Pat Riley is not one to settle for mediocrity. He has seen enough of a sample size from this team, and he is quickly realizing that it’s not working. There have already been a number of rumors flying around regarding Miami inquiring about a number of different players. So, expect the Heat to make at least one move within the next few weeks or so. Pat Riley has shown no fear in the past when it comes to midseason acquisitions: Joe Johnson midseason buyout in 2016, Goran Dragic midseason trade in 2015, Jermaine O’Neal midseason trade in 2009. Pat Riley has always been fiercely aggressive. Expect no different this season. Move(s) are coming for the Miami Heat. Soon.